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Election may signal change in Marquette County

Guest op-eds

October 21, 2012
Theresa Brodowski Scram , The Mining Journal

Thanks to The Mining Journal for providing essential facts readers should have when they make important decisions as voters in Marquette County. These facts have enabled me to summarize and share my opinion of the actions of local politicos before voters go to the polls on Nov. 6.

"Polls reveal people do not want continuity. People want change." (Michael Gerson, Washington Post, PBS News Hour, 10-16-12.) The first change I propose is county commission term limits, a maximum of four terms and that it be retro-active.

I support a change in the commissioners in the west end of the county. I advocate for Charlie Anderson who challenges Gerald Corkin and Lee Guizetti who challenges Paul Arsenault, (on the board since 3-1-88.) I also advocate for the re-election of Deb Pellow.

I am undecided about the election for Commissioner District 6. It is my opinion, there could possibly have been a motive in the reapportionment to create the District 6 for an individual who has already served on the commission for eight terms from 1986 to 2002.

Gerald Corkin has been on the County Board since Jan. 1, 1986. Under his watch, the retire-rehire debacle was approved. It is still a topic of discussion. The strengths of the county were offset by "... large unfunded liabilities for pension and health care." "As of Dec. 31, 2008, the county's unfunded actuarial liability toward the health care plan was $54.2 million (Mining Journal,?Sept. 8.)

"The county reported an unfunded actuarial accrued liability of $25.4 million to MERS," (Michigan Employee Retirement System.) (Mining Journal, Sept. 8.)

The county commissioners finally eliminated the MERS local retire-rehire plan after former prosecutor Gary Walker had the potential " to have collected $766,000 in pension during the eight-year retire-rehire period. If Walker collects his pension for another 12 years after his real retirement for a total of 20 years on the system - not an unreasonable projection, we believe - he will have turned the $27,968.49 he paid into his pension plan into $1,916,780. Not bad for government work." (Mining Journal, Aug. 27, 2011)

There are still over 20 county employees in the retire-rehire program. How much will this continue to cost the taxpayers?

On the positive side, the county commissioners finally appointed their own independent civil counsel, long overdue.

However, even though the current county Prosecutor Matt Wiese no longer has to fund the civil counsel to the county commission and his department is no longer required to handle contract negotiations, the commissioners did not cut his budget. Instead, Mr. Wiese was given a raise.

The proliferation of drugs and crime in Marquette County concerns me. Yet the commissioners have not reinstated the sheriff road patrol staff they cut from the budget in 2004.

The commissioners also appear to exhibit no concern about the cuts to the UPSET budget.

"UPSET is the only federally-trained clandestine lab team (meth team) in the Upper Peninsula. The remnants of meth labs are a serious issue for the environment. The waste is toxic and is dangerous for anyone that comes in contact with it. Meth remnants are considered hazardous material and require specialized disposal protocol.

UPSET responded to 21 methamphetamine labs in 2011. As of June 2012, meth response has already surpassed this number with 22 labs dismantled.

The only narcotics team in the U.P. with specialized training in narcotics enforcement and education, UPSET provides training programs to schools, civics groups, law enforcement, fire departments, medical staff and any other groups requesting training on narcotics, gangs, or gun issues.

I support the re-election of Commissioner Mike Quayle in District 3. During his first term, he has had perfect attendance. From viewing recent tapes of the county commission meetings, I conclude he is very diligent about reading all the materials made available to the Commissioners prior to each meeting.

He is absolutely not a rubber stamper. Commissioner Quayle has kept all of his 2010 campaign promises which included the elimination of the retire-rehire plan.

In my opinion, the financing of UPSET must be re-structured so that this essential organization can do its job. I suggest Commissioner Quayle, the only commissioner with law enforcement experience, be appointed to represent the commission in assisting UPSET generate much needed funding.

I encourage the Commissioners to re-instate the sheriff road patrol budget. I also suggest there may be a need to establish a curfew in Marquette County.

Editor's note: Theresa Brodowski Scram is a retired medical librarian and a resident of Marquette County.



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